Nietzsche as Dionysus as We
(I wrote this on 11/4/2003)
Some modern medical experts think that Nietzsche's ending-years dementia was caused by a slow-growing brain tumor. Others believe then-incurable syphilis pickled his brain.
Nietzsche himself believed that he had been born again as the reincarnation of Dionysus, the god of ecstasy, physical or spiritual intoxication, and initiation into secret rites. http://www.pantheon.org/articles/d/dionysus.html
And why not? ;-) I'd love to be the reincarnation of Dionysus, wouldn't you? Maybe we are!
As Nietzsche wrote to a friend, after his mental breakdown (or breakup, or breakthrough, or ...):
It is a mere prejudice that I am a human being. Yet I have often enough dwelled among human beings and I know the things human beings experience, from the lowest to the highest. Among the Hindus I was Buddha, in Greece Dionysus -- Alexander and Caesar were incarnations of me, as well as the poet of Shakespeare, Lord Bacon. Most recently I was Voltaire and Napoleon, perhaps also Richard Wagner ... However, I now come as Dionysus victorious, who will prepare a great festival on Earth. http://www.geocities.com/thenietzschechannel/niletters.htm
There have been entirely rational humans (such as Alan Watts) who have believed that we are all aspects of the one, that we are all reincarnations of the one, that we are all God having forgotten ourselves in order to play our parts in a grand drama, because God would otherwise become quite lonely and bored. However, if you tell a psychiatrist that you are a reincarnation of Buddha, Alexander, Caesar, Shakespeare, Voltaire, and Napoleon, and that you are now God ... you'll be diagnosed with psychosis. Perhaps rightly so ... ;-)
What is the difference, if any, between psychosis and religiosity? The ability to show up for work each day? A perception among your friends that you are only joking? A fear of putting your beliefs into practice? An organized religion's stamp of approval? The ability to humor those who are still stuck inside "shared" reality?
The societal determination that Nietzsche suffered a mental breakdown upon a particular day allows modern scholars to package his pre-breakdown philosophy as a somewhat nihilistic, power-intoxicated, and existential individuality, even though his post-breakdown views mellowed and transformed into something more like a shaman's crazy wisdom. In this way philosophers are used as categorizably teachable icons instead of as complex and evolving human beings ;-)
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